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McCann: ‘Clean Energy Future Plan’ Will Be Coming Early

September 5, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter

According to Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, work continues on legislation obligating utility providers to show progress toward shutting down all coal-fired plants by 2030 and achieving a 100% clean energy standard by 2035.

“We’re looking at, obviously, a pretty accelerated agenda,” he told MIRS following the “What’s Next” presentation Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “You saw some of the points that the Governor laid out that relate to energy matters, and we want to deliver that agenda on the Senate side. We’ll be working to finalize legislation that aligns with that, and then get it moving through the committee.”

A possible winner, based on the Governor’s remarks, was the Senate Democrats’ “Clean Energy Future Plan,” consisting of SB 271, SB 272, SB 273, SB 274, SB 275, SB 276 and SB 277.

As for the biggest opponents to the package, McCann said he believes that sort of thing remains to be seen.

“You want to try to find legislation with as much buy-in from as many stakeholders as possible. We expect probably some traditional resistance from folks who just can’t even get past whether climate change is a real issue or not,” McCann said. “So that’s kind of a non-starter, right?”

McCann said the bills were previewed at the end of June, and the summer was dedicated to listening to feedback. He also said that substitutes should be introduced early on in the upcoming portion of the process.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) suggested that the clean energy proposals within the Governor’s address would probably be the most economically consequential.

“Shut down natural gas plants early, which would mean stranded costs on utility ratepayers, which would increase the costs of all ratepayers,” Nesbitt said. “At the end of the day, does it increase reliability and affordability? And does it help increase the mix of energy in the nation to add affordability or reliability…but, if it’s just to get a grant from the ‘Inflation Explosion Act,’ then I’m not sure that that’s the right policy to go about.”

Democrats and environmentalists in Michigan have been highlighting that the passage of the “Clean Energy Future Plan” and similar reforms could result in Michigan obtaining $7.8 billion in extra federal investment from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Whitmer, Wednesday, also called for siting regulations for solar farms and wind turbines to be overseen by the state. Judy Allen, of the Michigan Townships Association said attempts to strip away local authority are becoming more and more common and it’s not the answer to questions about siting utility-scale renewable energy.

“No one knows a community – and its wants and needs – better than residents and the local officials they elect to represent and serve them,” Allen said. “Many townships across the state are already home to renewable energy facilities – by their choice. We will work to ensure that communities and Michiganders keep their voice on these important local decisions.”

When asked about local government units’ opposition to giving the Michigan Public Service Commission authority to site renewable energy projects, McCann said the devil is always in the details.

“There’s got to be a balance somewhere between the needs to really accelerate large renewable energy projects and get that energy on the grid versus sort of every community under the sun making up its own rules that may impede sort of our overall progress,” McCann said.

House Dems Are Also Prioritizing Climate Legislation 

Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) said it’s the piece of policy he’s most excited about tackling this fall.

“The items that the Governor outlined really touch on the way that we can protect our planet, support our economy and create jobs all at once,” he said.

In her speech, Whitmer said that encouraging the passage of both economic development and environmental protection legislation is possible, and there doesn’t have to be a “trade off.”

Morgan said he agreed, and the key is the way technology has evolved over the last decade.

“We can invest in protecting our planet and our people, while also creating jobs and supporting our economy,” he said, “and we do that through investments in clean energy, new technology and jobs that are going to be here, not just for three or five years, but for the next 20 years, as we make the transition to EV technology.”

He said that with the new Democratic trifecta, both the content and intent of climate legislation will change.

“We don’t get to introduce bills that are just messaging bills anymore,” Morgan said. “We have to introduce bills that can really pass, and have been thoroughly vetted by our residents and stakeholders here in Lansing.”

Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit) said he’s particularly excited about legislation aimed at expanding community solar programs, and ending the cap on rooftop solar.

Right now… “only certain people in certain communities that don’t necessarily look like me, nor my community, are taking advantage of the federal dollars that are coming in,” he said. “The state needs to be able to do the necessary logistical setup, and we have to pass these policies, in order to get more funding from the feds.”

When asked if the Sept. 26 deadline required to apply for federal dollars is unreasonable, McKinney said he believes it’s possible.

The ranking Republican on the Energy, Communications and Technology Committee said the Governor was “gaslighting” Michigan residents with her “disingenuous green dream” into believing there aren’t mammoth consequences to rushing to renewables.

“The projected cost of constructing all-new ‘green infrastructure,’ coupled with the abandonment of reliable sources like natural gas, propane and biomass for base-load energy generation, is expected to amount to hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Coloma). “Once the ‘free’ federal funds run dry, Michigan taxpayers will inevitably bear the financial burden with increased monthly utility bills.”

Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) expressed concern that there are two sides when it comes to constituent response to energy policy.

“She’s (Gov. Whitmer) fielding phone calls on one side, I’m fielding phone calls on the other side,” he said. “Elderly people are very concerned, very concerned about the rising cost of energy and how that’s going to affect them.”

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